Beliefs Institutions

Proposal to loosen Anglican Communion ties draws mixed responses

Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and GAFCON Chairman Archbishop Wabukala of Kenya walk together at All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi in 2013. Welby visited Kenya before the GAFCON II meeting in Nairobi. RNS photo by Fredrick Nzwili
Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and GAFCON Chairman Archbishop Wabukala of Kenya walk together at All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi. Welby visited Kenya before the GAFCON II meeting in Nairobi. RNS photo by Fredrick Nzwili

Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, right, and GAFCON Chairman Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya walk together at All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi. Welby visited Kenya before the GAFCON II meeting in Nairobi. RNS photo by Fredrick Nzwili

CANTERBURY, England (RNS) A proposal to loosen the ties of the bitterly divided Anglican Communion drew mostly favorable reactions in Britain, while African prelates said they needed time to study the matter.

Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, drew headlines this week after he floated a proposal to invite all 38 national church heads of the  Anglican Communion to explore how Anglicans can stay together while going their separate ways when it comes to dealing with two of the most explosive issues facing the Christian world: inclusion of LGBT people and the ordination of women.

Welby’s proposal would allow the communion to maintain relations with liberal churches of North America that recognize and encourage gay marriage and with the mainly African churches, led by Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria, that strenuously oppose any efforts at gay inclusion.

Both will then be able to call themselves “Anglican” under the proposal.

Asked whether this represented a divorce or a separation, an unnamed source at the archbishop’s office told The Guardian: “It’s more like (a couple) sleeping in separate bedrooms.”

One element of Welby’s proposal is to ask the Anglican Church in North America, a breakaway group from the Episcopal Church, USA, to attend the meeting in January — but not as a full member.

READ: Anglican Church to discuss looser global ties due to internal splits

Welby’s call for a make-or-break summit dominated the pages of several newspapers, radio and TV news bulletins in Britain, where the response was mostly welcoming.

The Rev. Sally Hitchiner, a prominent gay priest in the Church of England, told The Guardian: “This is a positive move for all sort of reasons. We can’t hold together from a place like England where an archbishop of Canterbury could be in a gay marriage possibly in my lifetime, to somewhere like Uganda, where they want to imprison people for gay sex.”

In Africa, responses were more muted.

“We will be seeking to know what he means by a more loose organization,” said Anglican Bishop Joseph Kanuku of Machakos, Kenya. “For us, the Bible should be the compass and the pilot guiding the ideology of any new structure formed.”

Bishop Julius Kalu of Kenya’s Mombasa Diocese said: “I don’t think this will solve the problems of the communion. The Anglican Communion is such an old organization, that may not be easy to
 replace. We know even before the emergence of the disputes over
 homosexuality, the communion was a loose union of dioceses and
 provinces. It is still. We have been united in diversity.”

There is concern that if the African churches decide to withdraw altogether from the Anglican Communion, they will pressure conservative churches within the Church of England to align with GAFCON, the so-called Global Anglican Future Conference, as a kind of rival to the communion. With 80 million members, the Anglican Communion is currently the world’s third-largest Christian body.

Uganda Archbishop Stanley Ntagali said he received the invitation but was still studying its contents.

“I am still consulting with my colleagues in GAFCON,” he said. “I will be giving a response in the due course.”

The Bishop of Manchester, the Right Rev. David Walker, outside Manchester Cathedral. Photo by Paul Heyes

Bishop of Manchester David Walker outside Manchester Cathedral. Photo by Paul Heyes

At the 2008 Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Communion’s 10-year meeting, nearly 250 out of the 800 invitees stayed away.

Welby had previously announced the indefinite postponement of the next Lambeth Conference.

In an interview with the BBC’s Radio Four, David Walker, the bishop of Manchester, said Welby has met most of the world’s national church heads in recent years, so no one should be surprised that he called a meeting to discuss the future of the Anglican Communion.

“I think most will come,” he said. “It isn’t just about sexuality. There will be other issues on the agenda.”

Walker acknowledged that Welby is taking a big risk bringing so many prelates together. But he added: “This is about finding a way forward for the Anglican Communion. I think we can find a good solution.”


About the author

Trevor Grundy

About the author

Fredrick Nzwili

Fredrick Nzwili is a journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya. For more than 15 years, he has written about religion, politics, peace and conflict, development, security, environment and wildlife. His articles have appeared in international media organizations among others; The Tablet, The Christian Science Monitor, The National Geographic and Kenyan local newspapers; The Standard and the People Daily.


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  • It “ain’t” going to change anything as the Anglican Communion is forever flawed as per the butcher Henry VIII being its basic founder.

  • This Anglican proposal is ludicrously desperate. The tenets that they disagree on are not the color of vestments worn, but critical doctrines of the faith. Though not as binding as Catholic Doctrine, the Protestants having the same name should at least follow a universal pattern. Come over to the Catholic side, Africa, and let the West wallow in their sins.

  • It is a good move. It recognizes unity with diversity which has always been an Anglican tenet. It is about time to recognize that as post-modernists, we are a diverse community. There is still a lot more that unites us than separates us.

  • My goodness, we have a Catholic evangelist.

    Let’s make a deal, Dom. I won’t tell you what Catholics should believe if you don’t tell me that all Protestants should believe in a doctrine that’s Catholic-lite.

    The only way we can ever have unity is by respecting diversity. Or should we go back to killing each other over disagreements about whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father or from the Father and The Son?

  • The **CLAIM** that some view of marriage is a “critical doctrine of the faith” tells us a lot more about the author than the faith.

  • Follow the Bible cultists and their ignorant hatreds to view the face of the anti-Christ.

    Are there mixed fibers in those green vestments?

  • Anglicanism is rooted in the reality that all who accept the Nicene Creed are Catholic. The rest is all politics, by various means, most successfully practiced – to date – by the Imperial Roman hierarchy.

  • Actually, Greg, Christian Unity will be as Dominic stated. There are fundamental Truths which comprise the Foundation of Christianity. The diversity you stated can be realized in the flavor of expression one church or another emphasizes. For example, there are 9 liturgical rites within the Western or Roman Church (e.g., the Ambrosian Rite). Additionally, there are 22 Eastern rites of the Church (e.g., Ruthenian Rite). And when the Protestants begin to come home to sanity, there will be additional rites added to the Church which will highlight their particular emphasis (e.g., The Anglican Use rite). Greg, we must understand that Divine Truth is Truth itself, and departing from that Truth is departure from God Almighty. We all will some day conform to His ways.

  • A creed for the 21st century:

    The Apostles’/Agnostics’ Creed 2015: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

    continued below:

  • Said Jesus’ story was embellished and “mythicized” by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    (references used are available upon request)

  • An Anti-Christ in the 21st century?? Give us a break!!

    “Nineteenth-century agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll branded Revelation “the insanest of all books”.[30] Thomas Jefferson omitted it along with most of the Biblical canon, from the Jefferson Bible, and wrote that at one time, he “considered it as merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams.” [31]

    Martin Luther once “found it an offensive piece of work” and John Calvin “had grave doubts about its value.”[32]

  • Ah! If you only knew the Living God. Put down the cell phone, unplug the internet, go out into nature, and humbly ask God to show you he exists. The response will be very clear.

  • If you don’t see the collateral damage in your midst, you are emotionally dead. This world is on a death spiral heading down down down. The Devil is alive and well, and his “son” the anti-Christ could very well be in our midst, as well. We, however, will not know of his existence until it is likely too late.

  • Well, here we can agree.

    I’ve seen the antichrist. He often posts on these very pages, under a variety of names, reviling and slandering anyone who disagrees with his theological pronouncements about the validity of the various Christian faiths, about the value of gay people in society, about the validity of other faiths, especially those held by brown people, and a host of other things.

    He really likes to defend his Holy Turf as being the One True Turf. He is known by his professions of love when he is busy reviling and slandering.

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